From Above the Forest

Sparring, Horses, and Mercenaries

Some aesthetic changes, nothing major, made Xen less creepy

12/25/12

Luna ran next to Misty as they raced through the forest.

'We need horses.' She thought as her feet landed on twigs and leaves, making various crunches.

She felt weighed down by her pack, along with the egg. She took a deep breath, noticing Misty's weariness. The group had been running and hiking most of the day, since the guard sentry's were still most likely looking for them.

They had made some good progress, but would definitely need horses if they need horses if they planned to get to any major towns in realistic time.

Xen slowed down to a stop. The rest of the group slowed, catching their breath.

"We should take a break. We've been running most of the day and need some lunch." He stated, sitting on a nearby rock, pulling out a few pieces of breath and jerky.

"Aye." Tarack and Misty agreed.

Luna took some water from her leather skin, taking a swig. She looked up, noticing Xen eying her.

'Again.' She thought.

He caught her eyes, and for a moment, something passed between them. She looked away, mildly embarrassed.

She looked over at the Misty and Tarack, who were sitting, trying to regain some energy. Luna walked over to Xen's rock. She sat down next to him, setting her hands in her lap. He raised an eyebrow, curious.

"We need some horses. There's no way we can make it, especially with all that we're carrying." She said, taking a deep breath. "If we could...borrow some of the money you took from us, I'm sure I cou-"

"Fine." He said absentmindedly. His eyes were focused on the road, as if he were deep in thought.

"It's...fine? Wow...not even some sort of argument. Kinda expected it though...Xen...can you hear me?" She asked, leaning forward and waving her hand in his face. His eyes opened wider, snapping out of it.

He caught her hand in his, then let it go Luna gave him a questioning look.

"Ah...yes. I'm just got distracted." His eyes returned to hers.

"Say...how would you like to spar?" He asked her mischievously.

"Spar? Well...it's been a little while." She answered nervously. His mood swings were something she would have to ask him about later.

"Well, you'd better get used to it." He grinned. "We need something better to do around the campfire at night."

Luna sighed. He made a good point.

Xen got up clasping his hands. He pulled out two daggers, seemingly out of nowhere.

Luna reached for her sword, drawing it out of it's sheath.

She noticed the smirk on his lips, practically screaming that he had already won.

"Uh...what's going on here?" Misty asked. Tarack wore an amused smile.

"Xen is most likely challenging Luna to spar. He always has a need to prove himself to new people. He did this to me for a while." He said quietly, chuckling. "He's only trying to show off, show her who's stronger." He said, this time much more quietly.

Misty laughed lightly. "That sounds sort of like Luna. She used to prank the new teachers at the magic academy at Kunon...well, she pranked everyone, actually."

The two circled each other, waiting for the first move.

Xen charged at Luna, swiping his dagger at her stomach. She jumped back, barely missing the blade.

'I barely saw that!' She thought urgently. She parried his next blow, getting almost knocked back from the force.

'So he's fast...and strong.'

She took a quick step back, again avoiding his daggers.

She tried an offensive move, attempting to slash him, but he only avoided her attack.

Misty looked on, noticing Xen's ferocity in fighting.

"He's not going to hurt her..is he?" She asked Tarack quietly. He studied them for a moment, Xen's graceful moves against Luna's mildly clumsy ones.

"Not...seriously." He said. Misty's eyes widened, jaw slightly slack. "Seriously?!"

"If it gets too rough I'll break it up. Don't worry." He said, smiling slightly.

Luna noticed his moves becoming fiercer, stronger. They clashed again, then broke apart.

She noticed his face set in a frustrated frown.

It'd been nearly five whole mintues, and he hadn't landed a single hit.

She'd managed to avoid getting hit, but had failed to land one herself.

During her training at the academy in Kunon, she had learned some swordplay, but had failed it shortly after getting failing magic class. She had, however, excelled a hand to hand combat.

Luna grimaced, feeling fatigue begin to wear at her muscles.

In a split second, she noticed his foot cross under her leg, tripping her.

She stumbled before having her sword knocked out of her hand.

She jumped back up quickly, just missing Xen's attack.

Now breathing heavily, and disarmed, she took a new stance. Her hands facing sideways slightly, and her eyes focused on his form. She took a deep breath.

'I haven't done this in a while...'

He charged at her, but changed his strategy changed. He aimed not with his sword, but with his body.

He tackled her, grinning as they crashed onto the ground.

"Agh!" She hissed as his head hit her stomach.

He laughed as she tried to regain her breath. "Xen! What was that for? I thought we were sparring!" She asked.

He chuckled. "We were. And I won. Now what's my reward?" He asked her, a mischievous glint in his eyes.

"How about I not knee you in the chest?" She said haughtily.

"Y'now...I was thinking more along the lines of a kiss."

Misty looked over to where Xen and Luna were, only to see Xen crumpled on the ground clutching his chest.

'Good lord.' Misty thought. Tarack gave an exasperated sigh.

She got up, walking over the Luna, now standing, looking over Xen still curled in the fetal position.

"If..uh..capable of walking, we're ready to go." Misty said.

Luna smirked.

The group continued, but being in the latter half of the day, they walked.

Luna's hands loosely gripped the straps of her pack. It had been several hours since they had had lunch, and even then, it was mid-afternoon. The sun was setting, spreading a canvas or orange, red, and pink across the sky. Glimpses of copper sunlight flitted through the trees as the sun began to set.

"There it is!" Xen said, ecstatic.

"There 'what' is?" Misty asked. Xen pointed to the top of a hill.

"It's a small outpost town. It's new, so it's not on your map. Anyways, we need supplies, and horses, as a certain someone said." He said, directing his speech at Luna. She looked over, noticing him rub his chest every so often.

She chuckled. She could get used to this.

/

The group entered the small town cautiously.

"Now listen," Xen began. "We are a group of travelers, just explorers from Liton. We're here to gather supplies. Nothing more, nothing less. Stay discreet, and don't get yourself in any trouble."

Luna remembered Xen's words.

'Stay discreet...I think I can manage that..'

She walked behind Xen as she wrapped her cloak tighter around her. The day had been mildly warm, but had steadily gotten colder. Now, the wind chilled her. Xen glanced back at her, noticing her shiver.

He had sent Tarack and Misty ahead to look for food, while he and Luna went for horses.

He let his steps fall behind a little, so he was beside Luna.

Xen wrapped his arm around her shoulders, pulling her closer. She has the a light red tint to her cheeks.

"I was only warming you up. You looked cold." He stated, trying to hide the humor in his voice.

"Mhm.." She murmured sarcastically.

He stopped, reading the sign at the front of a small wooden building.

They were standing in front of what looked to be like a stable. It was small, and had a good sized inn next to it.

"Looks like we found where we'll be spending the night, too."

They walked into the door, their steps alerting a page near the front desk. The boy looked around 11 or 12.

"Can I help you? He asked, eyes darting back between the two.

Xen stepped forward. "We're looking for some good traveling horses. What are your prices?"

The boy nodded. "I'll go get my master, one moment." He scurried away, carrying a stack of papers with him.

Xen sighed, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning back on the wall.

A few moments later they heard heavy footsteps come from the door.

A tall, wiry man came into view.

"So my page tells me that you wish to buy some horses." He declared.

"Yes, 4 if you have any good ones that are good for running and travel."

The man raised his chin. "Running and travel? Where will you be heading?" He asked, curious.

Xen narrowed his eyes as Luna glanced at him.

"We're simply travelers from Liton." he answered.

The old man rolled his eyes, then walked over what appeared to be a log of customers.

"Well...I'll have to see. We had a rather large group come in earlier, and they bought quite a few horses."

Xen spared him a glance. "Another..group?" He asked, slightly alarmed.

The old man shifted his weight to his other foot, leaning back on the table.

"Yes, a group of mercenaries...from the Kunon area I believe. Their leader..Reese..no..Rhys was the one who came to me first."

Luna's blood ran cold. She felt the heat disappear from her fingers, a cold settling in her limbs.

'It...it can't be! Not him!' She thought urgently. Her thoughts raced through her head like a whirlwind.

"Ah...Luna, may I speak with you alone?" Xen had noticed the anxiety on her face,

She nodded, taking a deep breath as Xen muttered something to the man, then escorted Luna out the door into the street.

Once they were out of hearing range, he grasped her by the shoulders.

"What happened in there? Do you know this 'Rhys?" Xen studied her face. She was hyperventilating, and beginning to shake. Xen sighed and simply pulled her closer, lifting her chin with his forefingers.

"Luna, I need you to tell me." He said softly. He ran his hand down her arm, soothing her.

She looked to the ground, then back to him.

"I...Well, yes..I do know him. But barely." She said, saying the last words through clenched teeth.

"Barely?" 'Why would she be reacting this way, then?' He thought.

She lowered her head. "Yes...you see, Rhys, he's..." She trailed off, unable to finish.

Xen held her face. "He's what?" He asked softly.

"He's...he's my brother."

AND CHAPTER 11 IS DONE! :D

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